Tim Waggoner: Dark War

Welcome back to Nekropolis, that strange and deadly extra-dimensional city where all of the dark things dwell. In a city where the dead walk, monsters skulk, and magic blends with technology to create new and bizarre results, there’s only one man you can depend on: Matt Richter, zombie PI. Matt’s one of the few honest people in a place where they’ll kill you and use your body parts for appalling purposes, so he tends to get the weird cases. Like stopping a plague of Hydes (think Jekyll and… but contagious!) or putting down a rampaging were-creature.

This time may be worse than usual, though. Two of Nekropolis’ Darklords–the Demon Queen Varvara and the Arcane ruler Talaith–are on the verge of open war, after a number of magic-users go missing, presumed kidnapped or dead. As Matt’s allies disappear or are forced to choose sides, he and half-vampire lover Devona must delve into the true cause of the current conflict. Unfortunately, that’s not easy when two-fifths of the city are fighting each other, the usual routes and modes of transportation are off-limits, and people are actively trying to kill him. But with the add of Shamika, the mysterious niece of a missing friend, Matt may just muddle through. Of course, in Nekropolis, nothing is ever easy.

Reading like a slightly more horror-slanted take on Simon Green’s Nightside series, Dark War continues to be a wild ride, a thoroughly entertaining romp through dark streets and monster-filled allies. It has everything I require in a book of its ilk: a strong-willed yet unconventional PI, a setting where anything and everything goes, and an unlimited number of mad concepts and pop culture nods. Wisecracks, pathos, treachery, intrigue, magic, danger, excitement, and even a weremadillo. Good times! Not to mention, you also get things like a shrunken head that’s also a shrinking head. A side trip to the Grotesquerie gives us some exciting moments involving giant monsters and B-movie rejects, an inopportune moment introduces us to chirahna (crosses between piranha and chihuahuas, much worse than you might think), and a visit to another dimension shows us a Matt Richter that “could have been.” Waggoner doesn’t think small, or hold back.

There’s not much to find fault with, here. Dark War, like the rest of the series, is non-stop adventure. Three parts urban fantasy, two parts noir, two parts weird, and a heavy dose of horror, liberally mixed to create something awesome. And given how this book ends, I can’t wait to see what comes next. So hey, give it a shot.

(Angry Robot, 2011)

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